Dept. of Ed. releases guidelines for protecting transgender students

March 12, 2014

via wikipedia.org

The New York City Department of Education revealed guidelines that protect the interest and safety of transgender students in public schools on March 10.

“‘Transgender’ is a term which describes people whose gender identity or gender expression is different from their assigned sex at birth,” according to the NYC DOE guidelines.

Marge Feinberg, deputy press secretary of the DOE, said the guidelines will help provide guidance to schools to support transgender youth.

The guidelines were put in place to make transgender students socially and educationally comfortable in a school setting. They arch over a wide array of issues that affect transgender students such as privacy, naming, using the correct pronouns, bathroom and locker room accessibility, sports and physical education participation and gender segregation.

If the student and their family wish to keep their gender identity private, the school personnel and faculty is encouraged to maintain the student’s confidentiality. However, if the student and family wish to be open about their gender identity, then the school will work with the family and outside resources to inform peers and other school personnel.

According to the guidelines, schools are recommended to use preferred names and gender identities on records that do not require a legal name or gender, such as student IDs. The preferred names and pronouns of students should also be reflected in how peers and school faculty refer to the student. Students do not need to attain a court order or gender change to be called their preferred name or pronoun.

Steinhardt freshman Allie Brunner, who is majoring in childhood education, said she acknowledges this step as progress but she said more needs to be done to combat bullying.

“It will help make children feel more comfortable in their school setting and hopefully will encourage students and faculty to be more accepting of them,” Brunner said. “Anti-bullying workshops and discussions regarding acceptance would be the next important step forward for these schools.”

Steinhardt freshman Courtney Smotkin, who is majoring in childhood education and psychology, agreed with Brunner.

“These provisions outlined in the article are a big step in the right direction,” Smotkin said. “But we still have a way to go before students who are exploring their gender identities will feel comfortable and safe doing so, which is ultimately what we want to become a reality.”

The guidelines regarding transgender youth and sports suggest that generally, students should be able to participate in sports that are in accordance with their gender identity. However, whether a student can compete in competitive athletics and contact sports, will be decided on a case-by-case basis.

Michael Silverman, executive director of the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, said while these provisions are beneficial, students should not be excluded from sports because of their gender identity.

“The value of teamwork and fair play that students learn by participating in school sports are just as important to transgender students as they are to all students so I do not think we need to start from a position of carving out certain types of sports,” Silverman said.

The guidelines also indicate that each school will have different experiences with transgender students and should consult with the families of students and outside sources if they need to.

A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, March 12 print edition. Kavish Harjai is a news editor. Email him at kharjai@nyunews.com.

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